Friday, January 30, 2009

The Vegas Girl Ventures Back into the News

The Vegas Girl is not alone in her opinion of the daily news--namely, that it contributes to Prozac sales. But I like to be informed, at least somewhat, so I resolved to find a way to keep current on the news without becoming clinically depressed. Today, I bravely skimmed the Friday edition of the RJ/Sun as well as the weekly View, then I took a trip to Barnes and Noble (what a hardship, I know) to pick up some of the alternative/freebie magazines—Las Vegas Weekly, CityLife, Home News, BLVDS (clean, crisp, professional layout) and Las Vegas Woman. I’m happy to say that I feel informed, but not terrified of any impending apocalypses. Here are some of the stories I found:

From Las Vegas Weekly: “The Museum We Can’t Use.” The Springs Preserve, a project Las Vegans should be proud of, is home to the almost-complete new Nevada State Museum. All that stands between it and completion is about $7 million dollars. Wouldn’t this be a project that might benefit from some of the controversial programs in the current stimulus proposal? Like that NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) money everyone is so up in arms about?

If you want the inside Vegas scoop, don't miss the Knappster (aka George Knapp) in CityLife. This week his column discusses the monorail and the Nevada Water Authority's revisionist memory about its stance on global warming and drought. Seems that 1,000-foot bathtub ring is impossible for even bureaucrats to ignore.

Every Friday the RJ runs an automotive section, Drive. Today, I read that the Mint 400 is back in town, and Tech Inspection will take place on Fremont Street March 27. My son and husband are marking their calendars. They love the smell of high octane racing fuel in the morning.

The proposed cuts to Nevada's educational system have enraged and shocked many residents. I thought it was interesting to read Geoff Schumacher's commentary, "Schools blame game" in today's RJ. How are we ever supposed to attract a more diverse economic base if our school system can't do its job? And it was so. . . interesting to read that Higher Education Chancellor Jim Rogers feels that rotten parents are to blame for our failing students.

The Summerlin Home News reports that the Summerlin Art Festival has been cancelled this year due to the poor economy. This is truly a loss for festival season; the sidewalk-chart art of La Strada dell'Art sets it apart from other Las Vegas festivals. They plan on resuming in 2010.

Years ago, when my husband and I climbed to the peak of Mt. Charleston, near the summit we passed the site of a 1950s plane crash. I had no idea at the time that the passengers onboard were working on the U2 spy plane. Now a local group would like to commemorate the victims of the crash. Summerlin South View carried a story on the crash and the effort to memorialize the passengers and crew in "Honoring silent heroes."
Photo information: My picture of the 2008 La Strada dell'Arte (September). See my post from October 2, 2008, for more photos and information about the festival.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Las Vegas Recommended Reading

If you want to understand Las Vegas a little better, plenty of authors have written books to enlighten you. I’ve been working on a reading list of books about Las Vegas, and here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

Many things may affect our future as a city. A strained educational system. Sinking gaming revenues. A precarious economy. A devastated construction industry. Virtually non-existent social services. The elephant in the room, however, is water, and that’s a good place to begin. Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner is an well-written examination of water issues throughout the Southwest, not just Las Vegas, and it's incredibly readable. (The book inspired a companion documentary series.) Take a look at that 1,000-foot bathtub ring around Lake Mead, and you should see exactly why this is an important issue for all of us.

The late Hal K. Rothman wrote and spoke about Las Vegas with a depth and insight that is still missed. Get a copy of his book Neon Metropolis: How Las Vegas Started the Twenty-First Century to read his observations about Las Vegas and what’s in store for her.

Las Vegas can be a city of tremendous opportunity, but she’s cold-hearted when you’re down on your luck. Matt O’Brien writes about the people who are currently living under the City of Neon in our flood channel system in Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas.

Are you for or against the Mob Museum? Organized crime has spawned a whole sub-genre of Las Vegas books to go along with the public's fascination with La Cosa Nostra. You probably know about Ben Siegel, but do you know who Dave Berman was? Susan Berman, his daughter, grew up in a young Las Vegas when the Mob truly did run things. She later wrote Easy Street, the True Story of a Gangster's Daughter, and became well-known as an expert on Las Vegas. Years later, Berman was the victim of a murder (still unsolved), which Las Vegas author Cathy Scott wrote about in Murder of a Mafia Daughter (Also see Scott's books on the Ted Binion murder and the Tupac Shakur murder.)

What about you? What's your nomination for the Vegas Girl's Recommended Reading List?
Photo courtesy of Tijmen van Dobbenburgh at

Friday, January 16, 2009

Man Bites Dog

As I was sorting old Vegas Girl posts from 2008 into categories (known in Blogger-speak as labels), I noticed that the News category was pretty slim last year. In previous years, News would have been as full of posts as Travel, but in 2008 I decided I couldn’t take the daily news anymore.

Last year, I switched to the weekend-only edition of the Las Vegas Review Journal/Sun, and cancelled my subscriptions to USA Today and The New York Times. The old newspaper adage that “If a dog bites a man, that’s no story; but if a man bites a dog, that’s a story,” just wasn’t working for me anymore. I shudder to think what I paid each year for those three newspaper subscriptions, but in my former days as a news junkie, it was well worth it. In 2008, however, as gas prices rose, housing prices fell, unemployment grew, and the stock market tanked, I could no longer tolerate my daily triple dose of death, disaster, destruction, and despair. Let’s not even talk about the election, that incessant stream of maddening commentary on the candidates’ personalities instead of upon their policies.

The weekend edition of the papers is just enough news to keep me in the loop, along with the free community papers (the Sun's Home News, the RJ's View News--in my opinion, they're a good preview of newspapers' future--smaller, more focused, less frequent.), Time Magazine, the occasional "Charlie Rose Show," and Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show." My favorite part of the weekend RJ is Margo Bartlett Pesek's Sunday Travel column, "Trip of the Week," which is a wonderful source of information about the kinds of places I like—unusual, out-of-the-way, and lightly visited.

I do check the news from time to time, just to see if things have changed, and invariably it’s the same message: we’re all gonna die. Either we’re going to be kidnapped and pushed off the deck of a cruise ship, we’re going to fry in the cataclysm of global warming, antibiotic superbugs will slaughter us, or the economy will be the Depression Version 2 and we’ll all die unemployed, uninsured, and broke (as the ice caps melt and the bird flu kills off whoever is lucky enough to find a patch of land).

Looks like the Vegas Girl’s News category may remain a little anorexic in 2009.
Photo courtesy of Sanja Gjenero at

Friday, January 09, 2009

Under Construction

Like many streets in Las Vegas, the Vegas Girl is under construction. I’ve re-designed the blog’s look so you can cruise thru categories (aka labels)—just scroll down and check on the right hand side of your screen. I’ll be adding more features, including links to other Vegas-based blogs, in the weeks to come.
Photo Information: Photo courtesy of Zern Liew at

The Kelso Sand Dunes

A few months ago, I got an e-mail from a gal who was wondering if she could hike at the Dumont Sand Dunes. No. It’s an ATV area (aka OHV Area), which is great if you like quads and sand rails, but it’s not a place to do any hiking. Fortunately, Dumont is only one set of sand dunes in the vicinity of Las Vegas. If you’d rather hike the dunes than ride over them, head south from Dumont into the Mojave National Preserve and check out the Kelso Sand Dunes.

In the summer months, Kelso is too hot to explore, but from about November through May, hikers can explore sand dunes that are closed to off-road vehicles. The hike to the top of the 700-foot sand dunes is one of my favorite hikes because you can slide down the face of the dunes when you start your journey back to the car. If you’re lucky, you’ll hear the dunes “booming.” Kelso is one of only 30 sand dunes world-wide that create this rumbling vibration that you can hear and feel.

Last spring I saw the Kelso Dunes in bloom, right at sunset. The evening primrose perfumed the air, and the afternoon light put shadows on the dunes’ faces. While the other desert flowers were closing, the primrose covered the ground in big white blossoms.

Photo Information: My pictures at the Kelso Sand Dunes in April 2008.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Zzyzx: The Spa in the Mojave

When the Mojave National Preserve was created in 1994, I remember being a little unsure about what, exactly, we were preserving. (This was before I discovered the MNP.) Then the urban landscape overtook the desert around Las Vegas. I’m glad now that something was set aside before the entire Mojave Desert was covered in Wal-Marts and tract homes.

Last year, my family visited Zzyzx. Today it’s home to a desert research group, but the remains of the former spa built by Curtis Howe Springer still stand. In 1944, Springer filed a mining claim on the land and proceeded to build several buildings, including a spa and hotel. The only problem was that the land was never officially his. The BLM took the property back in 1974.

The abandoned buildings on the edge of the dry Soda Lake are slowly being claimed by the desert. A boat embedded between two palms sits next to the horseshoe pit. The vast dry lake bed sits white and flat for miles, just beyond a spring-fed pond ringed with palms. The old spa’s outdoor pools still hold water. Through windowpanes without walls, the Providence Mountains rise in the background.

This was my favorite photo trip from 2008, but the pictures were never posted because about ten days after these pictures were taken in April, my mother got very ill; on May 6, she passed away. On this particular day, however, my only concern was how to find the best photograph on a beautiful spring day.
Photo Information: My photographs of Zzyzx.